Open Doors’ World Watch List has revealed North Korea is the country where Christians face the most extreme persecution. Hitting the highest score ever recorded in the list’s history, North Korea has returned to number one on the list after being topped by Afghanistan last year. The ranking reflects an increase in arrests of Christians and more underground churches being discovered and shut down. The enforcement of the new law which criminalises any published material of foreign origin in the country, including the Bible, is also partly to blame for its return to the top of the list. “North Korea has always targeted Christians and Christianity. This has been going since 1948 with the establishment of the Communist dictatorship,” Timothy Cho, a North Korean escapee who now works for Open Doors, said. “This new law brings a new wave of persecution. They are trying to find people who have been influenced by religious materials.”
When asked how Christians grow their faith facing such difficult situations, Cho said it only takes one person having an encounter with God to spread the Gospel. “Imagine a country that doesn’t have mobile phones or internet, but you have, human community. That’s how the story passes on one by one. “When we face a dark situation, we need comfort. We need hope, without hope, humanity cannot survive. And that hope we find in faith. “Praying to God, gives me hope of survival. That same faith remains in the darkest prisons. Christians talk about it, and they pray. They know they can be killed, but they know their faith will not be destroyed,” Cho added. It is hard to know how many Christians are in North Korea. Open Doors estimates there are 400,000 with about 50,000 to 70,000 in labour camps. Somalia, Yemen, Eritrea, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and Sudan round out the top-10 worst persecutors of Christians on this year’s World Watch List.
As for Afghanistan, which claimed the title of world’s worst persecutor of Christians last year, World Watch List said that the situation has “really not changed” even though the country dropped from No. 1 to No. 9 on the list. A spokesman noted what had changed that led to Afghanistan ranking further down on the list of the world’s worst Christian persecutors this year. “During the time of the Taliban takeover, a lot of Christians were killed. They are no longer there,” he said. Many other Christians fled so they too are no longer there.” One Christian who fled following the Taliban’s takeover, identified as Zabi, elaborated on the situation on the ground in a neighbouring country in a statement to Open Doors US: “Our situation is desperate. My mother and I managed to cross the border into another country. I am praying that I can leave this country and go somewhere safe. I may have to go into hiding or I’ll be deported to Afghanistan. If that happens, I may be killed.”
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